Road Tripping with Tweens


Road tripping with tweens doesn’t have to be painful! Check out Katie’s ideas to keep the trip smooth!


a map with scrabble tiles on it that spell out “road trip"


The itinerary is planned, the gas tank is full, and the car is packed. All that separates you from your summer destination are hundreds of miles of open road. Soon you’ll be heading down that highway with the wind in your hair, the music blasting, and the sun at your back, without a care in the world … except for keeping the kids occupied and, hopefully, off their screens for much of the next 5-15 hours. 


My tweens could watch YouTube for 15 hours straight if I let them, and some days that’s really tempting because I get peace and quiet and they don’t fight, but when it came to our last road trip, I really wanted them to engage with the world and each other. So on our 12-hour trip to Colorado in June, I tried some new and old tricks to keep them engaged and occupied, and I hope they’ll help you, too!


Snacks and Drinks


Make a quick trip to the Dollar Store to stock up on snacks and candy. Get three kinds of Pringles so everyone has the kind they want. Pringles travel well. For drinks, have everyone fill their water bottles, but also pack a few Capris Suns or sodas in the cooler for a little treat. After all of this, just know that no one will want any of this … they will only want what they see at the gas stations along the way. 


Set Screen Time Limits


Let’s be honest, some quiet time in the car is definitely welcome and may keep siblings from fighting in the back seat. But If you’re worried about your kids staring at their screen for the entire 5-15 hour drive, start off by using your phone’s settings to set screen time limits. If you can’t control these from your own phone, either set them from your child’s phone or talk about limits with your kids before the trip begins. You will probably still spend one-third of the ride entering your passcode to add more time, but you tried, and that’s what counts. 


Make a Playlist! 


an iPod with ear buds on a wooden table with the words, “Summer Hits Playlist” written above


When we drove to Florida when I was 7, we listened to the Top Gun soundtrack the whole time. It was awesome, and I still can’t listen to “Danger Zone” without thinking of that trip. Before you leave for your trip, create a playlist with your kids that has something for everyone and maybe even has a theme related to where you’re going. Here are some ideas to get you started:



Knee Deep – Zac Brown Band

Soak Up the Sun – Sheryl Crow

Kokomo – The Beach Boys



Rocky Mountain High – John Denver

Mountain Music – Alabama

Take Me Home Country Roads – John Denver


Great Songs for Sing-Alongs

On the Road Again – Willie Nelson

Life is a Highway – Rascal Flatts

Shut Up and Drive – Rihanna

I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) – The Proclaimers 

Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves


Our New Feel Good Favorites

Big Energy – Latto feat Mariah Carey

About D**n Time – Lizzo

Sunroof – Nicky Youre & Dazy

As It Was – Harry Styles



a car viewed from behind as it goes road tripping down a scenic road




Sign Alphabet Game

For this old favorite, you go through the alphabet finding words that start with each letter, in order. You can use signs, words on cars and trucks, billboards, etc. Look out for those semis from the Xtra line to fulfill that tricky X!


I’m Going on Vacation

Here’s another alphabet game, but you make it up as you go. everyone takes turns saying, “I’m going on vacation, and in my suitcase I’m packing …” The first person names something that starts with an “a.” The second person says the lead and then names the “a” word and adds a “b” word. Play continues with everyone repeating the words that came before and adding a new one until you get to “z.”



a mom and grandma in the front seat, road tripping with their two tween girls in the backseat




On our last road trip, we really got into season one of Six Minutes. (For season 1, scroll to the bottom of the page.) There’s mystery and adventure all told in six-minute increments. What’s nice about the brevity of each episode is that you can easily stop whenever you need a break. 


If you want a podcast to spark conversation on your road trip, listen to Short and Curly, a podcast that poses interesting questions like, “Is it ok to read someone else’s diary?” or dilemmas such as whether smartphones are ethical or not. With over 100 episodes, you’ll find topics for everyone in the car to jump in on. 


Between these ideas and taking side trips to roadside oddities (check out the world’s largest ball of twine in Cawker City, Kansas!), you should be able to engage and entertain your tweens for the better part of your trip. And even if you only cut down their screen time by a few hours, we can call that a win!


Share your favorite road tripping activities below!